18 August 2008

U.S. Navy Leadership Clueless Says Report

According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the U.S. Navy's senior leadership is clueless (full report here):

Unrealistic force plans, overoptimistic cost estimates, unrealistic projections of technical feasibility, and inadequate program management have created an unaffordable ship building program, led the Navy to phase out capable ships for new ships it cannot fund, and threaten the US Navy’s ability to implement an effective maritime strategy. . . .

The problem starts at a conceptual disconnect between strategy and reality. The Navy’s "Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower" is a set of concepts that was not linked to any clearly defined force plan, modernization plan, program, or budget. Navy shipbuilding plans are now shaped more as the result of budgetary constraints than as a response to strategic requirements. They seem to be an expression of wishful thinking rather than a realistic strategic guideline for naval procurement. . . .

The Navy’s procurement policy is in serious disarray, and is creating situation where the most serious threat to the US Navy is now the US Navy. . . .

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the execution of the Navy’s current 30-year shipbuilding plan would cost an average $25 billion per year, 30 percent above Navy estimates. Cost overruns, such as estimated $1 billion for the CVN-78 aircraft carrier jeopardize the entire program. Overoptimistic cost estimates have led Navy officials to shift funding to the outyears. This will cause a temporary shortfall of carriers and a breach of US law.

The authors blame the failed leadership of "senior flag officers, senior civilians, and the Secretary of the Navy.”

Some parts of the report are questionable, however. For example, it describes as a "shortfall," cut backs in the number of attack submarines in the planned fleet by 2028 by 7 submarines, a plan not to build 4 new guided missile submarines after 2028, and a plan to reduce the number of nuclear missile submarines after 2028 (as well as an earlier reduction by 1 ship of the number of San Antonio class amphibious transport docks and by 2 ships of planned logistics ships). There mere fact that the naval has moved its projected fleet size closer to the realm of budgetary possibility is not itself proof of disarray.

Of course, no one can dispute that naval ship procurement has a dismal record when it comes to staying on time and on budget.

Some of the problems, in my view, which are not mentioned, include (1) a failure to adequately address the threats posed to surface combatants by advanced anti-ship missiles and submarines, (2) a planned blue sea fleet that is overkill at the same time that littoral capabilities are underwhelming, (3) an allocation of offensive capabilities better handled by the Air Force to the Navy (particularly cruise missile deployment and anti-surface ship capabilities), (4) a strategy of deploying Marine units by slow conventional ships that puts troops at unnecessary risk while getting troops into the field too slowly, and (5) insufficient attention to logistics and sea lift generally.

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